Organization Guts

 

Seems like a life time ago when a reviewer told me he felt lost in one of my mystery stories, that it took him too long to gain traction again as the story played out. He eased the critique with a compliment and a recommendation to his readers. That’s always nice, but I know a spoonfull of sugar helps the medicine go down.

I gave a great deal of thought to the issue and of course, avowed not to lose my spontaneity or creativeness by over-organizing … read that as sweating over an outline; planning and maintaining my theme, characters, plot, and scenes; devolving the evolving the storyline; and all those other things creative writing class once insisted upon eons ago. After all, aren’t the steps in a novel’s formation really only a convenient way for an English teacher to organize his grade book?

Actually, no. And that critic? He was right. Just for the heck of it, I went back and outlined one of my early books. I made some basic errors, and could’ve done a better job. While I worked on my next two books, (I write two at a time to keep the machine moving forward), I played with a self-designed system. Somewhere down the road, I created Camelot Games and *Rite using my lessons learned. Many months ago on this blog site, I promised to reveal how my new book  *Rite used those steps. Sans the drumroll, here are my Big Four:

  1. Scenes & Sequencing events (or, “Snowflakes” with a special thanks to Randy Ingermanson for the term and the visualized concept)
  2. Timeline (Sequencing of unfolding events)
  3. Character description (lots of detail)
  4. The Fact sheet (concepts, themes, plotlines, and individual little hints that insure a reader, any reader can figure out the who-done-it just before the end of the story.)

You may note a missing essential component as set forth by that English Teacher. I’ve rolled those couple of items into the four biggies above. This works for me. You’ll make your own.

These four blocks of organization work well on Windows 10, yet another nice tool. I recall my old writing rooms (airport terminals, motel rooms, back seats of moving cars, cargo compartments of C-130s) with wonder. While writing in such odd places, I’d try to recall the corner of my garage that held the piece of paper stapled on my multiple cork boards. What key piece of information did I need to reveal in the scene I was writing? I usually got it right, but when I didn’t, a useless dark corner appeared. Hence, far more time spent in re-write.

Now, each of my Big Four waits inside my flash-drive ready for quick retrieval. Instead of limiting myself to eight by eleven sheets of loose-leaf notepaper as I’ve mentioned in the past, I use searchable documents available for a quick pop-up. Once I’ve checked my notes (and memory) I hide the doc, and continue to write. I still use the notebook as my concept first organizer, sort of the grandfather of the story. I like the feel of paper and pen, and to watch thoughts grow and mature. I’ve added a touch of technology and harden the steps into a file that now becomes my reference tool. The missteps that once followed the occasional bursts of inspiration are lessened. Hey, even Faulkner used a typewriter, the technology of his time.

I’ll end this here and give you an example of the new book’s struggles. One cautionary note: I’ve reduced the detail below because there’s simply too much for my little blog.

Snowflakes – The Big Pieces

INCIDENT LOCATION ITEM STORY 1 OR 2 WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE STORY AND HOW DOES THIS MOVES STORY ALONG SCENE AND CHARACTERS; CORRECTIONS IF NEEDED DATE, PAGE NUMBER
Light left burning at Winkler residence

Chandler, AZ

PP neighborhood

1 Observation post set up by killer/plotter getting to know Pfeiffer’s routine.

Need to lay foundation for ineffective killer, not up to sibling standards

Late Night

Pfeiffer House

Winkler House

Notable backyard

Dead body

Air-conditioning working even when not needed

Winkler – murdered

Det. Fernandez – case agent

Pfeiffer discoves

Mysterious assailant – escapes

Spring

P37

 

The Little Pieces

INCIDENT LOCATION ITEM STORY 1 OR 2 WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE STORY AND HOW THIS MOVES STORY ALONG SCENE AND CHARACTERS; CORRECTIONS IF NEEDED DATE, PAGE NUMBER
Sub Story

Light left burning at Winkler residence

2 Observation post set up by killer/plotter getting to know Pfeiffer’s routine.

 

Check bicycles in back yard. Too many of them. He falls over them and leads Pfeiffer to ask why – goes to neighbor teens

Coord. Mention thug on p67

Cops should talk to kids in neighborhood

Leads to hacker kid to break into financial records of university

Spring

P37

 

 

 

Timeline (Multiple of all significant events)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Laura graduates Undergraduate affair with Causey Goes to Berkeley Returns

Begins affair again

Dies Bennet Causey awarded Nobel Prize Hits on diamond deal with Tom Williams Too much cash Donation to UNA Tom Williams killed in traffic accident

 

Characters Description

Characters                               Sense               Description

Phil Pfeiffer

 

Protagonist Former Army Ranger, divorced by Marla,

Old girlfriend Gloria

Married to Lisa Calendar, father of baby girl Grace

Medic specialty in Army – forced to retire as M/sgt

6’1”

Broken back in helo accident days before Gulf War One began. Saved by Iranian nomadic

Formerly overweight now lifestyle change of diet and exercise regimen

Some self-doubting and accepts help

Partners with Lisa Calendar – true partnership of respect

School teacher parents killed in auto wreck, 1 week after retirement

Dropout Univ. of Kansas, red shirt football

PI as a way to back out of life

Guts not stupidity – credo

 

 

 

Facts Map

Theme – Partnership, like love comes only with often played mutual respect

Plot – Nobel Prize laureate spends a lifetime and a fortune overcoming the guilt of sin, encountering new issues with commercial success,

Scene – Chandler, AZ (home); Prescott, AZ (fictitious University Northern Arizona); art studio, national forest

POV – Pfeiffer & Murderer

 

Non-Chronological List of Facts

FACTS                                                                                 Pertinent Information                Page No.

Ghost Alumni financing the new UNA projects Lisa discovers 39
Diamond connection to sneak money undetected back into the country Lisa Uncovers 57
Dying of Cancer is an irony to the man who discovered the chemical to assure stem cell advancement in the treatment of untreatable cancers Pfeiffer and Lisa put concept together 12

*Rite – Working title for Phil Pfeiffer’s newest adventure mystery

 

Comments (4)

  1. Roland Hughes

    Windows 10 nice??? Cough cough hack hack puuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuke

    Otherwise a really great and informative post!

  2. Oliver Chase (Post author)

    Come on Roland. Some of us never quite got out of grade school. Windows 10 is sort of like having the same English teacher since third grade … you already know what you can and can not get away with.

  3. Oliver Chase (Post author)

    Jake walked into kiosk and waved to his friend, the owner.

    “Gimme a slice,” Jake says digging for his wallet. “Make it cheese only. Funny stomach.”

    “Coming up,” the owner said. “Doesn’t have anything to do with the dolly you was out with last night, does it?”

    “Dolly? That was no dolly. That was Windows 10 eating my computer.” He even sound angry to himself. “Sorry, pal. Bad night.”

    “Oops.” The owner grinned behind the mustache. “I think Roland warned ya, didn’t he?”

    “Yeah, yeah, but he never told me it’d eat my Office 365, too. What a mess. Took me all friggin night, and a half dozen chat line hacks just to get me running. I still don’t think it’s working right.”

    “Too bad,” the owner said. “Sometimes ya just gotta leave the old favorites behind. Move with the times, you know. Don’t look back.”

    Jake pushed the fedora back on his head and sighed. “You’re right. Even the best companies get too comfortable. Complacent, you know?”

    “Too true.” The owner handed over the pizza. “Here you go. On the house. The advice, too.” He grinned. “No charge.”

    1. Roland Hughes

      Really cute man. Sorry I didn’t notice the thing until now. You should have made that an actual post under humor.
      Made me smile. Fedora was a nice touch too. For the 2 people left in the Universe still running Windows.
      https://getfedora.org/

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